The crew climbed aboard Columbia about three hours before launch and strapped into their seats after the initial checks were completed. There were a couple of hours with practically nothing to do, so Lenoir, being a laid-back type of person, decided to unstrap himself and catch up on some sleep in his seat. He would be woken by Brand
when he was required for the pre-launch activities leading up to lift-off. With delays and holds experienced on the first four missions, Lenoir never really thought they would go on the first attempt, so when "zero" was reached without delay, he was a little surprised. The two minutes spent "riding the solids'' (the Solid Rocket Boosters, or SRBs) seemed to Lenoir to pass in two seconds, although he remembered the ride being very rough. As soon as they separated, the ride to orbit became smoother, with more time to ensure that everything was working correctly. At Main Engine Cut-Off (MECO), Lenoir's first reaction was that something had suddenly gone wrong and he grabbed the malfunction checklist to be prepared for any contingency they might be faced with. When he let go of the board and it just stayed there, he realised that nothing had happened. He had been strapped in so tightly that when the engines cut off he had momentarily registered their absence as a problem. Once he let go of a pen and it also floated in before his eyes, he realised that everything was fine.
Down on the mid-deck, Joe Allen was all alone with little to do other than to enjoy the experience of finally leaving Earth. Unlike his colleagues on the flight deck he did not have a window to look out of, but he was able to fully experience the dynamics of the event. In the pre-flight press conference, Allen had been asked what his duties would be in comparison to Lenoir on the flight deck: "Well I'll actually be a passenger. I'll be in the mid-deck, but I've requested my shipmates that they not send any radio transmission or ask any questions on the intercom that end in the word 'that', such as, 'What was that?' They will be very specific in what they say.''11 In 1983 he wrote of the experience: ''I told friends I'd believe I was riding Columbia when I heard the solid rockets light for lift-off [having already felt the power of the three Shuttle main engines ignite seconds before]. Your whole soul knows when the solids light. Your body shakes, and you know you're on the front end of the world's most powerful afterburner, going straight up. You accelerate rapidly, and the noise suddenly stops when the solids burn themselves out. The Shuttle is now running on the three main liquid hydrogen and oxygen engines, the smoothest running machinery I've ever been around. The solids are a rocket man's dream, making loud crackles and pops, but the liquid engines are so quiet you don't even hear them when they shut down.''12
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